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A new report has found that 14% of the earth’s coral reef disappeared in the decade after 2009. Published by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), the study is the most extensive analysis of coral reef health yet. Findings indicate climate change has raised sea levels and ocean surface temperatures, making it increasingly inhospitable for coral and leading to this mass die-off.
Why this Matters: “Coral reefs are the canary in the coal mine telling us how quickly it can go wrong,” David Obura, one of the report’s editors and chairman of the coral specialist group for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, told the New York Times. This significant decline of coral suggests the potentially cataclysmic effects of climate change.
Sometimes coral reefs can recover. But this time, the decline has been constant due to overfishing, unsustainable development, and polluted water compounding threats to reefs.
Coral reefs are vital to human life. They sustain fish populations, protect coastal areas from storms, and sustain tourism. They also house at least a quarter of all marine species, despite covering only 0.2% of the ocean floor.
Can Reefs Bounce Back?
The GCRMN report emphasizes the resilience of coral reefs and their potential for recovery if conditions improve. Scientists saw that reefs gained 2% of coral cover in 2019, a modest but meaningful improvement. Moreover, scientists noted that some species of coral might be more durable in the face of acidification and warming of the ocean. Still, these particular species tend to grow slowly and support less biodiversity.
“We are running out of time: we can reverse losses, but we have to act now,” Inger Andersen, the head of the UN Environment Program, put it in a statement on the new report.
UNESCO has launched a new program to collect, analyze, and monitor environmental DNA (AKA eDNA) to better understand biodiversity at its marine World Heritage sites. Scientists will collect genetic material from fish cells, mucus, and waste across multiple locations along with eDNA from soil, water, and air. The two-year project will help experts assess […]
It’s about time we had a conversation about the birds and the bees…or in this case, the otters and the seagrass. A new study found that the ecological relationship between sea otters and the seagrass fields where they make their home is spurring the rapid reproduction of the plants. Otters dig up about 5% of […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor An abandoned oil tanker off the coast of Yemen is deteriorating rapidly, and experts say that a hull breach could have far-reaching environmental impacts and threaten millions of people’s access to food and water supplies. The FSO SAFER tanker holds 1.1 million barrels of oil — more than four […]
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